Meet Kev. He’s been selling The Big Issue in Hampshire for nearly five years, and rain or shine he has a song, a joke or a friendly word for the people who pass by his regular pitch on High Street, just outside The Body Shop.
Taken into care as a youngster, Kev spent years living homeless on the streets of London before heading south. “I was the guy you see in a doorway,” he says. “I used to hitch just to have somewhere to go. It didn’t really matter where the lorry drivers were heading. I’d go round the motorways and come back to where I started.”
In Hampshire he worked as a landscape gardener before things went wrong, and it was then that he hit the city streets as a Big Issue seller.
“Big Issue is a registered charity that supports people who are homeless or long-term unemployed,” he says. “There’s a code of conduct and training, and vendors buy copies for £1.25 each and then sell them for £2.50. I work six days a week – the only difference between me and the people that walk by is that I don’t have an office.
“You have to be courteous and kind, just like you would in any job. I just add a bit of humour too. I have lots of one-liners which make people laugh or stop for a chat. I particularly like entertaining the kiddies. I’ve collected so many jokes over the years that I’m hoping to be a stand-up comic one day.”
Kev knows from personal experience the hardship that comes with sleeping rough and he is backing the Spare Change for Real Change campaign, which helps direct money to charity boxes around the city rather than into the hands of those on the streets. “You get caught in a vicious cycle of depending on hand-outs,” he says. “Money becomes a necessity for drugs and alcohol for many.”
He’s proud to be working, and no longer depends on charities like Trinity Winchester for a hot meal. “I’m not someone who likes to take more than they need,” he says simply, “but I’m always touched by how often I’m offered a hot drink or something to eat during the day.
“The best thing about my work is the people. I get to watch the world go by. If I can make the day a bit brighter for someone along the way, then that’s a job well done.”
Spare Change for Real Change supports Winchester Churches Nightshelter and Trinity Winchester, ensuring that donations for homeless people are used in a positive way. It is organised by Winchester BID.
01962 841000 www.winchesterbid.co.uk